Originality Note: This topic is heavily inspired from pastor CRAIG GROESCHEL's Soul Detox Theory Devotional through RightNow Media. This topic was written to fit within a series for Launch Ministry at Hope Chapel in Sterling. Credit to Pastor Groeschel where appropriate.
The people in our lives are so important. Those we spend time with directly influence our way of thinking and what scenarios we are exposed to. Sometimes this influence is obvious and sometimes it’s subtle.
I remember a specific job I had a couple of years back. The people I worked with were not bad people and most of them I legitimately enjoyed working with. They didn’t pressure me to do anything wrong or get me stuck in really bad situations, but the day-to-day discussion with them was, for a time, really the only external influence I had other than family and a couple of close friends. I can’t say that this influence was positive.
My language got worse, and I found myself more frequently considering temptations that they discussed so casually. Luckily the only temptation I truly fell into there was being overly frustrated with the customers and, well, not being thankful for my job. But I did notice that my walk, while not away from God, wasn’t really towards him either. I was stagnant, and God was in the backseat.
That’s a more subtle example, but there are also relationships that are more obviously toxic. Maybe it’s a friend or even just a coworker that is strongly pressuring you to do something you know is wrong. Maybe it’s a girlfriend or boyfriend who is treating you poorly or purposely tempting you to do something contrary to what you know God is asking of you.
There are three key ways someone can be toxic in your life.
Maybe you have someone in your life who is very negative. They can’t see the positive and they’re always bringing everyone else down with them, they’re full of criticism and it rubs off on you. Perhaps it’s a person who is controlling. They can be manipulative and always seem to get their way. Maybe they make you feel guilty or just influence what’s around you so you have no choice but to go with their plan. Maybe it is someone who directly tempts you away from God. They lead you to a dangerous situation where you might do something that might hurt people you love, hurt yourself, or hurt your relationship with God.
These people can have a strong impact on your life. They can drag you down or just make you less effective in your walk with Christ. They might be direct sources of toxic words like we discussed, or they might be sources of fear or might compound and magnify the fears you already are struggling to give to God.
I think where a lot of us get stuck here is in our response to these people. We don’t want to take a harsh action toward them or push them away. We want to be Christ-like and show them love and compassion and be an example. We want to be able to minister to them and love them. It sometimes feels wrong to pull away from that.
But when we look to scripture it actually says something else. Take a look with me at 2 Timothy 3:1-9:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.2 Timothy 3:1-9 ESV
In this passage God commands us to actively avoid people who are harmful to us in this way. We see Jesus acting similarly in his relationship with the Phrasies. Throughout the scripture he gives them a stiff arm, responding to them and then pushing them away. He does not spend time with them out of the hopes of being an example. He doesn’t let things go in order to appease them in hopes of later on convincing them of something.
Even with his own deciples Jesus sometimes cuts out toxicity. In Matthew 16:23 it reads:
But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”Matthew 16:23 ESV
“Get behind me Satan!” Jesus says. Even with his own deciple he pushes him away and cuts him off, in this case temporarily.
In 1 Corinthians 15:33 Paul tells us to not be misled. He says:
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV
In Proverbs 13:20 it says:
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.Proverbs 13:20 ESV
Jesus brought equality to everyone and loved equally, but he did NOT treat everyone equally. Jesus healed some people and did not heal others. Jesus flipped the tables in the temple and drove the people out. Jesus’ actions depended on the person.
This sounds contradictory to our faith at first. In today’s culture we are told to treat everyone equally and this sounds like it goes against that cultural moral. However, it’s important to note that Christ’s actions do not stem from racism or judgment or fear. Jesus treated people differently because of their walks in life. He treated them differently because he could see their hearts.
In the same way, at times we must hold toxic relationships at arm’s length. Sometimes it is best to cut them off completely. Perhaps not permanently, but it is important to create an environment where you can grow and serve God. When you’ve tried everything else, when you’ve asked them to stop and been clear on your boundaries, there comes a point where you have no other choice. By protecting our faith and our walk with God, we can then go out into the world and step into these people’s lives that need God as missionaries. This allows us to have the proper mindset and preparation.
By cutting off relationships that are truly toxic, you are not cutting off chances to serve or sending a message of hate, you are creating a boundary and an example. You are telling them that your faith and trust in God is what’s most important to you, and sometimes that can have the strongest impact. The people in our lives who are negative, controlling, or a source of temptation to the point where it is affecting our walk with God are toxic to us. Our friends and close relationships are so important.
“Walk with the wise and become wise.” People can have a positive impact on us too. by surrounding ourselves with Godly and wise people we find ourselves naturally supported. It creates a community of supernatural influence!
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 tells us of this:
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Creating relationships with wise and Godly people has a good effect on us. It’s not rocket science! “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
Now it’s worth pointing out here that God’s commandment to “walk with the wise” is not a commandment for us to judge those smart enough to be worthy of our time and expel those who are not. It simply means that we are to find people who walk with God and focus on curating life-supporting relationships with them.
Be aware of toxic relationships, be they negative, controlling, or tempting. Set boundaries, and if the other person cannot respect the boundaries, or if you cannot stay within the boundaries yourself, cut the relationship off. Curate relationships with Godly and wise people that you can walk towards God with and support each other.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!Psalm 133:1 ESV